At some point, we all deal with stress and feeling overwhelmed, and there are many healthy coping mechanisms around that can make this much easier. It’s easy to choose an unhealthy way of coping, but it is more beneficial to work at relieving stress instead of adding to it.
What Is a Coping Mechanism?
Coping mechanisms are ways people attempt to gain control over stress and other mental behaviors. These mechanisms help give a sense of comfort and relief. Healthy coping mechanisms are mechanisms that are beneficial to your health while relieving stress. They include improving diet, increasing exercise, and improving your mental health.
Causes & Types of Stress
There are many causes of stress, and they can range from large life changes to small life changes. Stress is caused by losing a loved one, moving, workload, school, and other major changes. A new marriage can cause stress just as much as ending one. Health conditions cause stress as well. Stress is caused when the mind feels it is threatened and stress hormones are increased.
Other causes of stress include the following:
- Fighting with family or friends
- Losing a job
- Damage to your home from natural disasters
- Car accidents (can cause emotional, financial, and physical stress)
- Being attacked
Although many causes of stress seem inevitable, there are many that are caused by your lifestyle choices. They include:
- Heavy consumption of alcohol
- Heavy smoking or recreational drug use
- Lack of exercise
- Overworking with few or no breaks
- Bad diet habits
- Spending more time watching television
- Excessive cell phone use - especially at night, as opposed to sleeping
These simple lifestyle choices add to stress because they are a distraction to healthy coping mechanisms that can help relieve stress, instead of increasing it. There are different types of stress that vary in their causes, and what healthy coping mechanisms you can use to fix them. Chronic stress is stress that lasts a long period of time, and may not have a distinct cause. It can come from working a high-pressure job, dealing with financial issues, relationship issues, and living with depression. Minor stress can be caused by small issues, such as a disagreement with a friend or loved one that is easily resolved, despite causing you temporary anguish. Additionally, a small car accident with no bodily harm is still an inconvenience to everyday life.
People fall into these habits due to stress, and they lead to chronic stress and sometimes depression. Once you fall into these habits, it isn’t always easy to pull yourself out. Stressful habits lead to more physical issues as well as mental, and the combination isn’t healthy. Luckily, there are many healthy coping mechanisms available to help lead to a less stressful life.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
There are many healthy coping mechanisms for stress, depression, and any other time you feel overwhelmed with everyday life. Many seem to be simple, common sense healthy coping mechanisms, while others are techniques you may not have thought of before.
Start Off Small
One of the simplest of the healthy coping mechanisms can also be one of the hardest. Carry on each day as you normally would. You should stick to a healthy diet, try to get enough sleep, and take much-needed breaks. It sounds easy enough, but depression keeps you from a normal life routine. You should try to get out of bed and live life normally.
Do the Opposite of What Your Mind Is Telling You
Stress and depression will tell you to stay in bed, to not do the things you love, and instead, procrastinate on work that needs to be done. One healthy coping mechanism is to push yourself to do the opposite. If your mind is telling you to stay in bed all day, force yourself to get up. Even if it is just to sit in the living room. If you know you need to shower, but your mind is saying not to, force yourself to get in the shower. If you want to stay inside all day, make yourself go for a short walk, or even just sit outside with a book or music. It may not seem like much, but it's one of the healthy coping mechanisms that will help you push yourself to try harder to get better.
Do Something You Enjoy
To take your mind off of your problems, a healthy coping mechanism is to do something you love. Do you have a favorite hobby? Dancing? Running? Playing an instrument? You should try to push yourself into performing that hobby. Take some time throughout the day to do something that makes you smile, laugh, and relax. This can help put you back into focus for things that may be stressing you.
Many people dealing with anxiety, stress, and depression have found comfort in meditation. It’s not only one of the great healthy coping mechanisms, but it’s also free of charge. Meditation can help you relax and calm you down. Ten to twenty minutes brings relief from stress by listening to music, thinking pleasant thoughts, and clearing your mind.
Simple exercises are healthy coping mechanisms because they help relieve stress. Improving your health takes away from chronic stress. More exercise decreases your risk of major health problems that would only cause more stress if you develop them. If you take 20 to 30 minutes to exercise, you can clear your mind and improve your body both physically and mentally.
Adult coloring (and even for children, of course) has been a growing hobby for those looking for healthy coping mechanisms. It helps to take your mind off of things for a short moment by having you concentrate on something else. It’s a healthy release that is simple and can be done at any time of the day. During a break in a stressful workday, set aside a few minutes to color a bit, and help yourself end the day in a relaxing way.
One of the simplest of the healthy coping mechanisms is learning to prioritize and telling people "no". If you know you can’t complete a task, then do what you can and learn to live with it. If someone asks you for help with something, and you can’t really help, say no. Sometimes you aren’t able to do it all and you should be able to express that. Overwhelming yourself with added responsibilities will only increase your stress.
Be Your Best Critic Instead of Your Worst
You’re not perfect. No one is perfect. It’s normal to beat yourself up about things from work and school, but no one can do it all, and no one can do it all perfectly. Also, using healthy coping mechanisms means asking for help. At some point, you will need it, and you shouldn’t feel bad for asking.
Take Things One Day at a Time
Your daily routine can be overwhelming, especially if you’re already dealing with stress and depression. Your mind is already telling you that everything is too much. One of the best healthy coping mechanisms to deal with this, is to take things one day at a time. Set a goal for each day to complete what you can and make a list of tasks you’ll realistically be able to do. Try to set a routine that will lessen the amount of stress you have, while still completing the necessary work.
Talk to Someone Close to You
One of the best healthy coping mechanisms is talking about what ails you. Holding everything in adds to stress and helps bad thoughts and feelings grow. If you have a close family member or friend, speak to them about what you’re dealing with at the moment.
Keep a Journal
Another healthy coping mechanism that helps release stress is writing in a journal. Simply writing out what you’re dealing with, can help relieve stress and anxiety. A daily journal helps you set aside at least ten minutes a day to let everything out, which can help you relax. It is also a way to track the progress you’re attempting to make.
Talk to a Therapist
This step can be one of the hardest, but it is a huge benefit and one of the top healthy coping mechanisms. If your depression and stress is bad enough to where it stops you from living, it is best to speak with a therapist. You can find therapists through your health insurance; a primary care physician can refer you and there are also different apps where you can speak to someone. Now, there are ways to speak with a therapist virtually, making it easier to schedule appointments around everyday life.
These healthy coping mechanisms are a great way to start relieving stress, whether it’s chronic stress or minor. They can help start you on a track to a healthier life mentally, which in turn, will lead to a healthier life physically. Remember to start off small and take things one day at a time. Once you start a daily routine, these healthy coping mechanisms will be a habit for you, and help you create a less stressful life.